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May 2003

Thursday 1 The FA is fined £70,000 for the pitch invasion and racist abuse at last month’s Euro 2004 qualifier with Turkey. UEFA also criticises David Beckham for his “provocative” goal celebration. England’s next match, against Slovakia, will not be played behind closed doors, however. Acting joint chief executive David Davies promises action: “We need to take this decision and use it to our benefit. There are people who have shamed this country, we all know that.” UEFA will also be sending a bill to Sir Alex, who’s fined £4,500 for claiming the Champions League draw was fixed. In the Conference play-offs, Dagenham beat Morecambe 2-1 and Doncaster draw 1-1 at Chester. Thierry Henry is named Footballer of the Year to add to the PFA award he won last week.

Saturday 3 “I am so grateful to have been given the chance to do something,” says a tearful Paolo Di Canio after coming off the bench to score the goal by which West Ham beat Chelsea. They’re now level on points with Bolton, who draw 0-0 at Southampton. Fulham are safe after a 2-0 win over Everton, who now need to beat Man Utd in their last match to be sure of a UEFA Cup place. Villa also get the points they need to stay up in beating Sunderland 1-0. “We’ve made indentations,” says Sir Bobby as Newcastle take one of the two remaining Champions League places. Liverpool miss a chance to go ahead of Chelsea into fourth spot by losing 2-1 at home to Man City, for whom Anfield cast-off Nicolas Anelka scores an injury-time winner. Cheltenham take the final relegation place in the Second after losing 1-0 at Notts County. Exeter are relegated to the Conference despite a third successive win, 1-0 against Southend, as Swansea beat Hull 4-2. Lincoln clinch the final play-off position.

Sunday 4 Man Utd are champions thanks to Leeds’ 3-2 win at Arsenal, wrapped up by a Mark Viduka goal in the 88th minute. “It’s the greatest achievement of this team,” says Sir Alex. “We have shown perseverance and determination allied to great ability.” Arsène, twitching slightly, sounds a sour note: “Over the whole season, if you look at the FA Cup and the Premier League, then we were certainly the best team in England.” With Leeds safe, Peter Reid would like to keep the job: “We need to sit down in the summer but I’ve certainly enjoyed it.” Brighton are relegated to the Second Division after a 2-2 draw at Grimsby while rivals Stoke beat Reading 1-0. Rangers miss two penalties in a 2-2 draw at Dundee that leaves them three points ahead of Celtic, who have a game in hand.

Monday 5 Doncaster and Dagenham & Redbridge will meet in the Conference play-off final after penalty shootout wins over Chester and Morecambe respectively. Fulham complete a second successive league and cup treble by beating Charlton 3-0 in the FA Women’s Cup.

Wednesday 7 Jermaine Pennant and Robert Pires both score hat-tricks in Arsenal’s stable door-locking 6-1 win over Southampton, though Gordon Strachan senses an omen: “A strange feeling came over me towards the end and because of that I think we will win the Cup.” Celtic return to the top of the SPL on goal difference after a 4-0 win at Motherwell. Paul Simpson resigns as player-manager of Rochdale.

Friday 9 John Gregory is sacked by Derby after being suspended for two months, though he is set to appeal. Tipped to be the FA’s new chief executive, US-based Peter Little wood withdraws his application, which had been opposed by some of 12-man FA board.

Saturday 10 Doncaster return to the Football League after a 3-2 golden-goal win over Dagenham & Redbridge in the Conference playoff final. In the First Division ties, Forest draw 1-1 at home with Sheffield United while Wolves come from behind to beat Reading 2-1. QPR draw 1-1 at Oldham in the Second while Bristol City beat Cardiff 1-0. In the Third, Bournemouth get a goalless draw at Bury while previously goal-shy Lincoln let rip with a 5-3 win over Scunthorpe. A crowd of 8,497, bigger than three of the gates in the SPL, sees Morton go up from the Scottish Third Division by beating promotion rivals Peterhead 1-0. East Fife are promoted from the same division with a last-minute goal, as are Brechin City in the Second. Brigg Town win the FA Vase, beating Sudbury 2-1.

Sunday 11 West Ham are down, drawing 2-2 at Birmingham while Bolton beat Middlesbrough 2-1. “I am emotionally unstable,” says Sam Allardyce, continuing: “The world has been lifted off of my shoulders and I am floating about six feet off the ground.” Trevor Brooking risks a prediction: “I don’t think we will have the same squad of players here at the start of next season.” Chelsea take the one-off £20 Million Cup, a 2-1 win over Liverpool securing the final Champions League place. Blackburn get the remaining UEFA Cup spot with a 4-0 win at Spurs, while Everton lose 2-1 at home to Man Utd, during which that there Wayne Rooney allegedly picks up a knee injury that makes him doubtful for England’s three summer matches. Manchester City’s last match at Maine Road ends in a 1-0 defeat to Southampton. Aston Villa’s 3-1 defeat at Leeds means they finish below Birmingham City for the first time in 29 years. Rangers return to the top of the SPL, a 4-0 win over Kilmarnock giving them a goal difference one better than Celtic. Roy McFarland is to be the new manager of Chesterfield.

Tuesday 13 Cardiff take home advantage in the Second Division play-off final after holding Bristol City to a goalless draw in second leg of their semi. Bournemouth beat Bury to reach the Third Division final. West Ham turn down a transfer request from what they see as a “badly advised” Jermain Defoe, who is being strongly linked with Man Utd. David Moyes wins the manager-of-the-year award voted for by the League Managers’ Association. David Seaman is left out of England’s summer squad, in which Ian Walker is a surprise inclusion.

Wednesday 14 Wolves reach the First Division play-off final after a late Alex Rae goal defeats Reading. QPR and Lincoln also qualify for their respective finals. Graham Taylor quits, saying: “I came back to deliver a successful team and failed to do that.” He also implicitly criticises the Villa board: “People have to be able to look at themselves and say it’s time for a change.”

Thursday 15 Neil Warnock experiences “the best night of my footballing life” as Sheffield United head for Cardiff after recovering from 2-0 down to beat Forest 4-3 in extra time. The FA’s new chief executive will be Mark Palios, a former midfielder with Tranmere and Crewe and more recently a big cheese accountant. He’s looking forward to that challenge: “The FA enjoys a fabulous name in world football and owns some of the game’s most prestigious brands.” Chris Coleman delivers a downbeat message on taking over as Fulham manager: “We have got to be realistic. The fact is we are not a top-six club and don’t get 50,000 crowds.” Peter Reid makes space for some of his pals by sacking Leeds’ first-team coaches Brian Kidd and Eddie Gray.

Saturday 17 Arsenal win the FA Cup for the ninth time, a Robert Pires goal beating Southampton in the first final to be played indoors, as the rain persuades the authorities to close the roof on the Millennium Stadium. “It would have been unthinkable to end the season with nothing but it could have happened,” says Arsène, referring to Ashley Cole’s goalline clearance from a James Beattie header in the last minute. Gordon Strachan is philosophical: “At least we won the lap of honour.” David Seaman is set to leave, possibly for Man City, after turning down the offer of a coaching job.

Sunday 18
That crazy mad SPL title race will be decided on the last day of the season as Rangers return to the top by one goal after a 2-0 victory at Hearts. Burscough win the FA Trophy, beating Tamworth 2-1.

Monday 19
Bryan Robson declares his interest in the Villa vacancy, praising the “unbelievable job” done by Doug Ellis. Leicester, meanwhile, say they won’t give Micky Adams permission to speak to Deadly D and his minions. The FA denies claims in a BBC documentary that drug abuse among footballers is growing and that players often have warning of tests. Among 700 players polled, 5.6 per cent know of colleagues who use performance-enhancing drugs while 46 per cent succumb to the reefer madness of recreational use.

Tuesday 20 Baby father David O’Leary takes charge at Aston Villa, saying: “My aim is the top six in a couple of years then kick on from there.” Firm handshakes may be back in fashion after the FA warns England players against “triumphant” goal celebrations, after those UEFA criticisms of the reaction to both goals in the Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey.

Wednesday 21
Celtic are beaten 3-2 in extra time by Porto in the UEFA Cup final. Martin O’Neill is unhappy about Porto’s diving – “Loads of things were going on out there” – while his counterpart Jose Mourinho complains about allegedly rough tackling: “Was what the Celtic players did tonight
normal?”

Thursday 22 England win 2-1 in South Africa, where Emile Heskey, no less, gets the decisive goal. David Beckham breaks a bone in his hand and will be in plaster for eight weeks. Sven wasn’t surprised by South Africa’s robust approach: “You talk about ‘friendlies’ these days but you have to be proud that when England come, all the other nations want to beat us.”

Friday 23 Newcastle complete the signing of Lee Bowyer. “He will do his talking on the pitch,” says chairman Freddy Shepherd, with fingers and feet crossed. Scottish First Division champions Falkirk are refused promotion to the SPL, apparently because of doubts over their plan to groundshare at Airdrie – they may appeal. Joe Kinnear is sacked by Luton’s new owners three days after their takeover. Arsène Wenger is offered the Real Madrid job at a secret meeting in Paris but says he will stay put: “I have two years left on my contract.” Crystal Palace’s first-team coach Steve Kember is promoted to manager.

Saturday 24 Bournemouth become the first team to score five in a play-off final, Lincoln getting two in response. Luton’s mysterious new owners are said to be keen on appointing Terry Fenwick, recently a flop at Northampton, as manager. The FA denies reports that Rio Ferdinand and John Terry had a bust-up with La Manga hotel staff over a pool match.

Sunday 25 Cardiff City move out of the lower divisions for the first time in 18 years, a goal seven minutes from the end of extra time beating QPR. Sam Hammam is exultant: “The nation of Wales deserves a top-notch Premiership club.” Rangers are Scottish champions after the season ends in the anticipated turkey shoot, Dunfermline losing 6-1 at Ibrox while Celtic win 4-0 at Kilmarnock, where Chris Sutton, in quite a strop, is red-carded twice after the match.

Monday 26 Wolves are promoted, three first-half goals seeing off Sheffield United, who miss a penalty shortly after the restart. Dave Jones reflects on his return to the Premiership three years after being sacked by Southampton: “This game has gone a long, long way towards erasing some of the memories that I have got.” Neil Warnock, dismissed at half-time for shouting abuse at the referee, calms down sufficiently to praise his players: “If we can keep the team together we have a right to have high expectations. It has been a fantastic season.” The FA threatens legal action over reports that Danny Jordaan, head of South Africa’s 2010 World Cup bid, had claimed it was paid £1m to ensure that David Beckham appeared in the recent friendly. Chris Sutton apologises to Dunfermline having accused them of “lying down” in their 6-1 defeat against Rangers.

Tuesday 27 Wales’ ten-match unbeaten run ends with an under-strength team losing 2-0 to the US. Scotland, also missing first-choice players, limber up for their Euro 2004 encounter with Germany with a 1-1 home draw against New Zealand. Blackburn turn down Birmingham’s offer of £5.5m for David Dunn, who isn’t on speaking terms with his manager but claims he would like to stay. Luton’s prospective chairman and vice chairman, approached by the new owners, say they may not accept the jobs after fans stage a public protest against the takeover of the club.

Wednesday 28 AC Milan win the Champions League in a particularly inept penalty shoot-out after a 0-0 draw with Juventus. UEFA chief executive Gerhard Aigner warns that England will be thrown out of Euro 2004 if supporters cause trouble in the remaining qualifiers or at the finals. David Beckham is to address the nation on this topic next week. John Gregory loses his appeal against being sacked by Derby but will take it to the High Court.

Thursday 29 West Ham reject Chelsea’s “derisory” offer of £5m for Joe Cole. Micky Adams signs an extended three-year contract with Leicester. Notts County are to move out of administration after creditors approve the sale of the club.

Saturday 31 Rangers complete a domestic treble, beating Dundee 1-0 in the Scottish Cup final. “I have to manage it how I want, they wanted someone to do it their way,” says Mike Newell on being sacked as manager by newly promoted Hartlepool just six months after getting the job. York sack their manager, Terry Dolan. Barcelona presidential candidate Joan Laporta claims to have a “verbal agreement” to buy David Beckham for £30m. Man Utd, meanwhile, are strongly tipped to sign Ronaldinho, who says: “I have a burning desire to be involved with a club that plays in big games all the time.” Well, good.

From WSC 197 July 2003. What was happening this month


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